Further Developments in Discussions with the European Union under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union - Motion to Take Note (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:54 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Shinkwin Lord Shinkwin Conservative 6:54 pm, 11th March 2019

My Lords, in just over a fortnight, government will become more accountable than it has been for more than 40 years for laws that affect the everyday lives of the British people. Parliament, including this House, will become more powerful in holding government to account, and the voters will know that, when they hire and fire a Government, policies will actually change. There can be no more hiding behind Brussels to justify inertia. There can be no more gold-plating of regulations which other EU member states ignore, to our disadvantage. There will be no more pumping billions of taxpayers’ money into a political project that actively undermines national democracies.

Noble Lords may already have heard that a ComRes poll at the weekend showed that 44% of the British public now favour leaving on WTO terms over this withdrawal agreement, representing a six-point increase since January. So the tide is turning, and yet, like King Canute, many are still in complete denial, determined to do anything they can to thwart the result of the people’s vote of 2016, as my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne, who is in his place, said in his excellent speech.

The current situation reminds me of when a Labour MP described his party’s 1983 manifesto as the longest suicide note in history. But that was only 39 pages long; this deal runs to almost 600. No wonder some Labour MPs are supporting it. After all, what is there not to like for Labour when you know that the Conservative Party will be saddled with the blame, perhaps for a generation or perhaps even as indefinitely as the backstop? I fear that if my party pushes this deal as it stands through Parliament, we might as well write our own political obituary.

No one can accuse the Prime Minister of not bending over backwards to accommodate Brussels. She may have acted in good faith, but it has most definitely not reciprocated. So I say to my colleagues in the other place: if you believe in poverty of aspiration, and that the UK should reconcile itself to inexorable decline as a vassal state of the EU, please go ahead and vote for this deal; if you believe that the British people are so stupid that they will not realise we are surrendering £39 billion of their hard-earned money just for permission to start the real, interminable negotiations, please go ahead and vote for this deal; and if you believe that the 17.4 million people who voted to leave are somehow going to fall for the farcical claim that it honours the result of the people’s vote of 2016, please go ahead and vote for this deal. But if you have the slightest doubt about any of the above, and if you believe that the British people deserve better than to be fed this foul-tasting fudge, please vote against it, vote against taking no deal off the table, and vote against extending Article 50—which, as my noble friend Lord Caithness said, would lead to people taking to the streets.

My noble friend Lord Cavendish mentioned fear; he was right to do so. The first disabled leader of the free world had something timeless to say about fear. His inaugural address on 4 March 1933 is famous for his assertion that,

“the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”.

But FDR’s concluding remarks are even more pertinent. He said:

“We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people … have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action”.

They have done so again. The people need us to respect the result of the referendum, honour our manifesto promises to leave the EU, the single market and the customs union on 29 March, and bring accountability home, with or without a deal. The future of our democracy depends on it.